Joining a group of scientists, academics and educators and 12 outstanding young New Zealanders on the recent 13-day Young Blake Expedition to the subantarctic islands was a ‘huge privilege’ says AUT Professor of Marine Tourism Mark Orams.
Orams, who participated as a marine ecologist and researcher, says on-board he felt a strong connection to his friend and sailing partner the late Sir Peter Blake with whom he shared a love of exploring and learning from challenging adventures.
“Sir Peter also had strong connections with AUT – he was an AUT alumnus and recipient of the university’s first honorary doctorate,” says Orams.
“Exploring the subantarctic islands with 12 outstanding young New Zealanders was the perfect way to help keep Sir Peter’s legacy alive. Experiencing this remote and beautiful environment through their eyes and sharing their curiosity, joy, apprehension and growth was really exciting and added a huge amount for me personally to the expedition.”
Orams played a strong role in leading the educational component for students, sharing his expert knowledge of marine mammals.
“I wanted to provide some stimulation and encouragement for them to think more deeply about the important issues that lie beneath the environmental issues we could see. For example, while they were observing native New Zealand sea lions close up on Enderby Island I prompted them to think more broadly about why these creatures are endangered. I encouraged them to ask important questions about issues like fisheries by catch - to think deeply about the causes of these sorts of environmental problems, and what we can do to solve them.”
The voyage also had a strong research component for Orams, who is looking at the immediate and long-terms effects of the voyage for the 12 young people, gathering qualitative data from on-board observation and face to face interviews.
“The themes that are emerging from my research so far are about the value of the experiential learning we did on board, which seemed to have a deep impact for the students. I am discovering that it was not only exposure to a remote and pristine eco system that left an impression – the students talk a lot about the interactions they had with scientists, students and other adults on board as something they highly valued.”
In a blog entry during the expedition, student Mitchell Chandler wrote: “As if being on the Auckland Islands and in the Sub-Antarctic wasn't special enough we also get to partake and be involved in actual, meaningful, applied science during our time here. Anyone who knows me well will realise how exciting this is for me as I have a real passion for science and am curious about the world I live in. Being able to pick the brains of these researchers and being trusted to be actively involved in their work has been great and only increased my passion.”
The Young Blake Expeditions are an initiative of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, which aims to give young New Zealanders the knowledge and skills to become leaders.
AUT Business School’s Director of Business Relations and trustee of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, Sarah Trotman, also joined the Young Blake Expedition, travelling as far as Bluff.